You Hired a Lemon; Eliminating Toxic People

May 29, 2018


One of the most rewarding experiences as a manager, is hiring a new employee. There is much excitement from the new hire process, considering the time invested in getting the new hire on-board. We are never 100% sure a new hire is a perfect fit, until they have worked a couple of months. Once the nervousness subsides and they've had time to adjust with the company culture, people tend to get comfortable. It's at this point, managers have to be engaged. Bad hires never disappoint and will do an amazing job of exposing themselves to the team. Only the boldest will display toxic behavior to their managers. The most dangerous toxic people, can become a parasite on your best and most vulnerable employees, and do so without your knowledge. Here are a few tips to help you remove the toxic people in your company and restore a positive culture.


Identify Toxic Behavior


As a manager, you should always be engaged with your team. Being relational not only opens the lines of communication but also builds trust. Your interactions will help you observe and get a read on whats going on in your department. Toxic people have a habit of being in long patterns of negative behavior. They lack empathy, rarely apologize, take control of conversations, and deflect. Toxic people rarely speak up to decision makers, but will speak negatively to others, thus creating a disengaged team. New hires that show signs of being toxic frequently compare your company to their old one, focusing on the positive of their last company and creating a sense of uncertainty for your team. Rounding on your team helps to get a conversation started and also gives you a better understanding on how well the team is getting along with each other and new hires. The level of trust you have established will help expose toxic behaviors in others.  


Is the Behavior Rectifiable?  

The most important step after you identify the team member with toxic behavior, is determining the root issue. In my opinion, there is no excuse to promote negativity, but misery loves company. This is very dangerous for smaller companies, as it develops like a cancer and can cause a huge decrease in productivity. Catching this kind of behavior early can be a simple fix, however by the time managers are able to identify the toxicity, it has been happening for a while. Depending on the seriousness of the affect on the team, the first suggestion is to have a discussion to get to the root of the negativity. In my experience, many toxic people are unhappy and don't realize the negative affect they have on others. A simple conversation can help you determine next steps; new cubicle, different team to work with, weekly meetings, etc. If the behavior is rectifiable, the steps taken to correct it should be documented. 



As a manager, it is easy to second guess your decisions, as we are accountable for our departments, and have a level of care for each person. Toxic behavior can affect productivity and job satisfaction for others, so it should be easy to make a hard decision on a negative person, right? Wrong, corrective action is always difficult but necessary.Restorative practices can be very useful for correcting behaviors. Behavioral changes take time and requires a desire to change from the team member. Upon completion of counseling, its highly suggested to monitor and document the steps to correct the behavior as an action plan. No person in any company should believe they are above reproach. This attitude reflects narcissistic  behaviors, and in this case, the only action is to terminate the employee. It's imperative to maintain a healthy and positive work environment for your team, so you must always stand by your decision. 


Understanding toxicity as it affects the workplace, managers can observe the vibe in their departments and easily identify any negative changes. Being a present and engaged manager facilitates prevention of toxic behavior from spreading and can increase your employee retention. No company is perfect and not every team member is perfect. If you understand the value in relationships, you can understand how restoration can make relationships thrive. As a manager, there are some things we aren't able to fix, and it is our job to decide how to best protect out team. 



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